Bird Curatorial Manual | Labeling & Numbering Birds

Writing and Numbering Specimen Tags

The next step after cataloging is to deal with the specimen tags. Skin or fluid specimens must have a MVZ tag – i.e., a tag with the museum’s name printed on one side. Skeleton tags don’t have the MVZ name on them. Specimens received from MVZ-affiliated researchers should already have the proper tag, but if not then a new tag must be written and tied onto the specimens in a specific way (see Staff Curator). Never destroy an original tag!
Tags for different types of specimens have the following features (see images below for examples):
  1. Skin and fluid tags are the same rectangular size. In both types of tags, the specimen data (collector and collector number, locality, date, weight, sex, age, molt, fat, reproductive data) go on one side and the identification goes on the other side. The data are written in a specific way.
  2. Skin tags have a dashed line near the hole where the string goes, on the side of the tag that has the specimen data. Fluid tags lack this dashed line.
  3. Fluid tags are made of thicker paper to withstand immersion in ethanol without falling apart.
  4. Skeleton tags are round and made of heavy paper for withstanding the bug colony.

Numbers and data should be written clearly and legibly!

Data side of MVZ skin tag.
Identification side of MVZ skin tag.
Prep # side of skeleton tag (with string)
MVZ # side of skeleton tag (with string)
A carcass with attached skeleton tag.
Prep # side of skeleton tag (no string)
MVZ # side of skeleton tag (no string)
A cleaned skeleton with detached tags.

Labeling Fluid Jars and Vials

Labels for bird fluid jars and vials are written in archival ink on one of three label sizes: large (gallon or half-gallon jars), medium (pint jars), and small (small jars for stomach contents, scintillation vials). The label should be written neatly and clearly with an archival Micron pen (01 or 02 for small labels).
Large and medium labels should be written as follows:
    • top line: scientific name (genus, species, subspecies if applicable)
    • middle line: geographic locality (country, state; state, county)
    • bottom right: MVZ catalog number(s)
The small labels for anatomical parts contain the same information, but there is a fourth line that lists the parts and underlines the exact type of fluid part (e.g., skin, tissue, syrinx). In addition, the jar/vial caps for these parts have the MVZ number, genus, and species written on them in a cancer (tissue) pen. It is always a good idea to check the collection before you start labeling jars to make sure that you are doing it consistently with what is in the collection.
A small fluid label for the scintillation vial pictured below.
Vial cap with collector number, genus, species, MVZ number, and accession number.
A half-gallon fluid specimen jar with large label.

Cleaning and Numbering Skeletons

Printing Box Labels

Skeletons, eggs, and nests are housed in custom-made archival boxes that use database-generated labels. The MVZ bird collection uses two label sizes: narrow and wide. There are different types of labels depending on the nature of material (e.g., skeleton versus egg/nest) and size of the box. Two labels are printed for every skeleton and nest box – one goes inside the box, and the other adheres to the outside of the box. Egg boxes just need one label that goes inside the box (facing up so that it is visible through the box).

Labels are printed from Arctos as follows:
  1. Login to Arctos and search for the specimens that need box labels. This is done on the main Arctos catalog search page. You can either search by the accession number or by the catalog numbers. Select MVZ Bird Specimens as the collection. If you are searching by a range of numbers, enter the first and last number separated by a hyphen. If you are searching by a set of discontinuous numbers, enter each number separated by a comma.
  2. After you get the result set, go to the “Manage” dropdown and select “Print Any Report.”
  3. In the long list of reports (these are for all of the Arctos collections), scroll down to the MVZ labels. Select the type of label that you want to print.
    • Skeletons take either “MVZ_Narrow_Labels_Bird” or “MVZ_Wide_Labels_Bird.” Use the narrow label only for the outside of small (#1) skeleton boxes. All other boxes, and all inside labels, are of the wide dimensions.
    • Eggs and nests take “MVZ_Wide_Labels_Egg.”
  4. Click the “Print Report” button. This will generate a PDF of the labels. Check the PDF to make sure that the labels look ok. Occasionally the collector or preparator name in the lower right will run into the verbatim date in the lower left. Other issues also may occur, such as the locality getting cut off if it is too long for the label. Such issues are easily fixed by downloading the label report and editing it in Adobe Acrobat Professional. Long names can be abbreviated by using initials instead of spelling out the first name. Likewise, localities can be abbreviated in explicit ways, e.g., by changing “County” to “Co.”, or state such as “California” to “Calif.” etc.
  5. Print the labels on the curatorial color printer. Labels for the inside of boxes get printed on archival high quality paper. Labels for the outside of boxes get printed on paper that has an adhesive back. Both types of paper supplies are in the curatorial area.
  6. Print as many labels as possible on a sheet of paper; try not to waste paper. Labels for multiple accessions can be printed on the same paper.
  7. Use the paper cutter and/or scissors to neatly cut the labels along the outside lines so that each label is separate.
  8. Place the archival wide label inside the box, and adhere the sticky label on the outside of the box. The orientation of the label on the outside of the box is important. For #1 skeleton boxes, place the sticky label on the box at its narrow end. For other skeleton and nest boxes, first look in the collection to see  how the box is oriented in the tray where it will be installed (see section on installing birds). The label should be placed on the box (in the middle from side-to-side, at one edge) so that it is facing the front of the tray.

Templates for Gallery Cases and Fluid Room Shelves

Standard Case Exterior Label
• Fits standard size steel cases
• Requires trimming to fit zinc cases
• Four labels per page
Drawer Label
• Fits standard size steel and wood drawers
• Fits steel egg case drawers
• 12 labels per page
Magnetic Aisle Label
• Fits 5″ x 7″ magnetic picture holders
• All pre-designed aisle labels are included in this document
Egg Case Exterior Label
• Fits large steel egg cases
• One label per page
Ethanol Room Rolling Steel Box Label
• Fits rolling steel ethanol boxes
• Three labels per page
Ethanol Room Family Label
• Fits large magnetic shelf labels
• 10 labels per page
Ethanol Room Genus Label
• Fits small magnetic shelf labels
• 27 labels per page